Written by Shona Smith on Apr 6, 2021. Posted in General Interest / On Location

Behind the Scenes of Zero Tolerancia with Hafzoo in Cuba

When award-winning Austrian production company Hafzoo were approached to document a unique live recording from Cuban sing-songwriter Ray Fernandez they jumped at the chance to capture the raw energy of one of Cuba's most celebrated performers. As well as a live recording, the crew shot a short documentary on the life of the troubadour.

Director Andreas Hafele discusses the making of Zero Tolerancia and working in Cuba with service producer Luis Lago Diaz of Shoot Cuba.

Can you tell us a little about the project? 

Ray Fernandez Live Recording

Ray Fernandez recording session taped live at EGREM Studio on January 12, 2020, in Havana, Cuba. © Erika Goldring Photo

Andreas: "Fernandez holds the longest running music residency in Havana, over 12 years at the music club El Diablo TunTun and is loved and highly respected in the arts and music scene of the Cuban capital. Despite this, hardly any documentation or recordings of his songs and the stories he tells in his lyrics exist. We made it our goal to capture the raw energy that makes Ray Fernandez music." "The live recording saw all the musicians in one space, with no room for mistakes or fallbacks. Hence the album’s title: Zero Tolerancia! Alongside the performance we filmed a short documentary about Rays view on life in Cuba, his career as a troubadour and the excitement to perform some of his best songs in front of this home crowd, friends and family".

This project focuses on the talent of Ray Fernandez and his band. What talent pool exists in Cuba?

Luis: "Aside from Ray, who is a legend, we Cubans are known for our talent in performing arts and creativity. Our casting sessions bring out the most incredible faces and characters. If you consider the fact that education is important to us and that we have many prestigious and free art schools, it is the perfect breeding ground for a substantial pool of visual artists, musicians, actors and dancers to emerge.

Everybody thinks of Cuba as old buildings and white beaches, but there is definitely more to it. We have a hugely talented collective of set-architects, constructors, art-directors, props and set decorators here. For instance, for a Stella Artois commercial entitled Triple Piano directed by Fredrik Bond we decorated old Havana to look like the vintage French Riviera. It goes to show how capable our art-departments and local talents are".


© Erika Goldring Photo

What were some of the location highlights?

Andreas: "Filming at the legendary music studio EGREM (Empresa de Grabaciones y Ediciones Musicales) in Havana was our highlight. The walls ooze decades of musical heritage and we were very lucky to get permission by the head of the state-owned music label to stage a live-event with lights, cameras and crowd in there.


© Erika Goldring Photo

Picking up shots around Havana never fails to inspire and when scouting for a suitable location to film Ray’s interview, we ended up on a rooftop in Miramar, located west of old town Havana".

What types of productions are most often facilitated in Cuba?

Luis: "At Shoot Cuba we mostly facilitate commercials and music videos from Europe. Productions come because of the sun and the great weather, particularly for long shooting days in the winter".


Andreas, as an incoming producer what is your impression of Cuba as a filming destination? 

Andreas: "As a filming destination Cuba offers incredible locations, buildings, people and stories. The weathered textures across the island, combined with an ever-present sense of nostalgia, fascinate and attract photographers and filmmakers alike. But as soon as you step out of simply observing and you are looking to stage scenes, control your environment and get things done, you need professional local support.

In our case we worked with Luis Lago Diaz from Shoot Cuba to help us realize our shoot. Ordinary production rules in a communist country don’t apply. An experienced service producer can help you wrangle the local rules, trade in Cuban Pesos, which as a foreigner you are not allowed to and if necessary, organise any equipment to be flown in".



Luis:  "To execute a successful production in Cuba it is essential to work with a local production service company to name just a couple of reasons:

-  Filming permits in Cuba, authorised by the Cuban Film Commission can only be obtained by Cuban filmmakers or Cuban companies. No foreigner can request them directly.
-  Location permits with the authorities, the import of specialist equipment, work visas and a number of formalities are entirely different here. If you want to get things done, it’s better you know them".

What equipment is available in Cuba, was anything brought in for this shoot?

Andreas: "Cuba has a surprisingly good equipment infrastructure. Your lighting and grip rental in the capital is not far from European standards. We did not have to bring anything in for our shoot but simply rented some Maxi Brute 9000 PAR64, a selection of tungsten and LED lights, dolly and tracks, cameras, crew etc. Traditional 35mm film cameras, as well as digital bodies with Zeiss, Cooke or Angenieux lenses are available. Should you need specialist equipment or particular anamorphic lenses, a permission is in place whereby certified service producers can speed-ship equipment from abroad and bypass a lengthy customs process".


El Son de Jose Live Performance

Zero Tolerancia Documentary

See all twelve songs from the performance by clicking here.

Image Credits: Shoot Cuba / Hafzoo / Erika Goldring Photo


Related Posts


Not Logged in

You must be logged in to post a comment

    There are no comments